Thursday, January 31, 2013

#musesofamom: A Lesson about God

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After finishing the book, "Wonderstruck" by Margaret Feinberg, I opted into her daily "21 Days of Wonder Challenge" to further my awakening to the wonders of God that are all around  . . . but that I always seem to miss.  

Today we are on day #17 and the subject is: God.  Her challenge was this: 

"With a blank sheet of paper and pen in hand, along with a Bible nearby, begin making a list of the characteristics of God. Write down various names for God. Record attributes of God. List promises of God. Then spend some time thanking God simply for who he is and offering words of adoration to him. The wonder of God’s presence awaits you."

While this could be an easier exercise for some, I honestly admit that I had a hard time getting started.  Many attributes and characteristics did come to mind, but for this challenge, I thought it would be more relevant to journal the attributes of God that have a striking importance right now in my life's journey.  

And that's why I had a hard time starting my list.  

At this point, I opened to the Psalms. There are so many things about God for which I am so glad and grateful, and they are all listed in the Psalms.  He is majestic, powerful, redeeming, all-knowledgeable.  He is the ultimate Guide, Comforter and our Salvation.

Finally, a word came to me. Confidant.  

I do believe that the Lord was telling me in that moment something about Him that I didn't know enough about!  In the Psalms, I started digging for treasure.  

"... trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge."
(Psalms 62:8: NLT)

This verse reminded me that it is okay for me to pour out my heart to Him and to tell Him anything and everything that is on my mind! I can weep before him, laugh with Him, share my soul with Him.  He wants me to, and better yet, He is going to reciprocate.

"The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them."
(Psalms 25:14  NIV)

Jesus said to his disciples near the end of his earthly ministry: "I no longer call you slaves [servants], because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me." (John 15:15 NLT)  

There was a realization that although I am happy to do that things that God wants me to do, He is asking me to be more than His servant. He wants to be my friend, one to whom I can confide anything and He can do the same in return.  What a wondrous revelation!

Margaret said today in her blog:  "Wondrous delight is found in the presence of God."  Oh how true that was for me today!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

#musesofamom: Lord, Please Bless My Plan!

At the beginning of each new year, many of us take time to make resolutions, set goals and plan what needs to be accomplished.  Some of us are eager to plan out each detail and post it for daily remembrance; others of us plan internally.  Either way, women have a drive and desire to accomplish -- whether it is on large or small scale.

To accomplish our goals, some of us thrive on the busyness of getting there; others of us may have stress under the constant pressure to perform.  We may see those women who seem to "do it all" and then feel as though we aren't doing enough.

Women today wear many "hats", so to speak.  You may be a mom, entrepreneur, employee in the service industry, volunteer, ministry worker or other type of public service.  We all want to do our jobs well, and many of us have our jobs on the home front too. We want to know that whatever we do, are we doing enough?  Is what we are doing making an impact?

Can I encourage you that while striving for success is a good thing, we must remember that regardless where we make our work, we should not make plans for our lives first and then ask God to bless them -- we are asked to come close to Him, communicate with Him, so He can show us what our plans should be.  No matter how busy you may be, you cannot be productive or effective unless you put God at the helm.

Once you are on the path God puts you on, you will see what is the most important, what has priority and what He wants you to focus on.  That will result in the success He wants you to have, for His glory.  And for your happiness and peace.

Commit your actions to the Lord,
 and your plans will succeed.  
Proverbs 16:3

Monday, January 28, 2013

#musesofamom: The Real Winner of the 4th Grade Spelling Bee

Last week, I made my ten-year-old son cry.  Can I be totally honest here and say that at the time, I wasn't really sorry for it?  

We were in the midst of studying for the fourth grade spelling bee.  Josh was in the final group of 15 students who would complete in just two short days in front of his peers.  To prepare, he was given a list of 600 words to review in a week's time.  The challenge would be a great way to teach Josh the benefits of hard work and good competition.

We were on word #247. 

"Mom! I'm missing too many words! I CAN'T DO THIS!"  

"Of course you can. You are the smartest kid I know. And the best speller."

"No, I'm not. I can't remember how to spell these words!"

"That's because you haven't learned them yet. We are learning them now."

"How many words did I miss on this page?"

"Don't worry about that. We are just reviewing right now."

After a few more misspelled words, his eyes started to glisten with tears.

"Mom! I'm not good at this. Can we stop now?"

"No. I know you can do this. Just a couple more words and we'll stop for the day."

I felt like Mother of the Year.  NOT.

At the beginning of the week, I was sure that I knew my child and his capabilities.  He really was a good speller. Was I pushing him?  Yes.  Did I encourage him along the way?  Yes.  Was it hard work?  Yes.  (For him and for me!)  Doubts began to surface when the frustration would set in.  I could see how he was progressing, but he could not.  I was hoping to build his determination, but he was feeling defeat.  That's where the tears began.

But even through this, I knew there was an importance of teaching him that doing new things can be difficult,  hard work pays off and there are rewards along the way.  It was my goal as his coach to motivate and to teach him some skills he could learn from the experience.  

When I would see his frustration, I would stop, encourage and praise him for what he was doing right.  It would be enough to keep him going through more words until we were finished with our 20 minutes.  The night before the spelling bee, we persevered through the rest of the list and by then, I wanted the whole thing to be over as much as he did.  While I could sense stress, I was quick to assure that those feelings were normal and I had no doubts of his skill.  

Despite my "motivational speeches" and my good intentions, I neglected one important thing:  to ask him what was going on right at that time in his mind and heart.  Instead, I was quick to give encouragement based on what I was seeing, not what I was hearing.  

It was then that my husband intervened.  Through his God-given wisdom, Chris could see that while Josh was nervous about the next day, he was not so much stressed as he was worried that he was going to disappoint his parents in the worst way imaginable:  by failing.  Josh, with his compassionate heart, will do anything to please and to keep peace. Chris not only encouraged Josh, but he prayed with him at bedtime and stayed with him until he was relaxed and could fall asleep.  

Josh didn't need stress relief, he needed failure relief.  He needed to understand and grasp that no matter what, he had worked hard, and wherever he finished -- we were his biggest cheerleaders.  

He didn't need my motivation as much as he needed my patience, praise and prayer.  While he did agree that  he could do well in the spelling bee, he needed the assurance would be accepted, no matter what happened. 

The following morning, there was a brighter outlook.  I made a nutritious breakfast for Josh and sent him off to school on the bus, telling him we would see him at the spelling bee.  I promised not to sit too close.

We were prepared for anything, and I was as nervous as anything.  However, you want to know what I saw?  

Confidence.  At each turn, Josh came to the microphone and spelled word after word, not showing an ounce of nervousness or stress.  Seeing the assurance in this ten year old as he spelled for his peers was not as much the result of my coaching as it was an answer to prayer.  We were so happy and encouraged, we didn't care how far he progressed through the contest.

He finished in second place.  

After several rounds between himself and another 4th grade girl to determine the winner, the moderator pulled out the 5th grade spelling list.  Josh got stuck on the word, "nitrogen", but he finally realized where he had finished.  He was overjoyed with a grin that wouldn't quit.

It was then that I cried.  Looking back -- I believe that it was me who learned the most from the 4th grade spelling bee. 

Blessed is the person who trusts in the Lord.  The Lord will be his confidence.  
(Jeremiah 17:7 GWT)

Here are a few things that did help us through this process. Maybe some of these will help you too!   

For Josh:  
  • Knowing when study times would be and that there was a designated amount of time allotted (15-20 minutes worked best).  Keeping shorter study times help lower frustration.
  • Allowing some free time in between reviewing sessions for a little reading or TV. 
  • Giving some guidelines of how the material could be studied. (Kids need to be guided on how to study and memorize.)
  • Granting undisturbed time to study alone, using his own thinking process.
For myself:
  • Remember to praise, congratulate, reward throughout the process!
  • Be patient and calm in order to deflect frustration. (Use chocolate if necessary. Seriously.)
  • Ask questions periodically:  "How are you doing?  Are you nervous? Where else can I help?"
  • Pray with my child so he knows where his strength comes from.

Friday, January 04, 2013

#musesofamom: How I Found FREE E-books

Since I love to read, my library is starting to overflow.  Once a year I usually purge and take more current titles (still in pristine condition - usually my fiction books) to the library for donation.

Last year I got an iPad 3 and I have gotten hooked on it's convenience. During my flurry of app downloading, I found the free Kindle app, but didn't think I would really use it since I definitely like to kick it  "old school" when it comes to reading:  I want to hold, feel, smell and experience the book in the literal, not digital sense.

That has changed.

It all began when starting an investigation at to see if I would be lucky to find some interesting e-books for free in order to experiment with the Kindle app. (And I absolutely love a bargain!) Did you know you can find a listing of 100 FREE Kindle e-books?  Yep.  Go HERE.  It's updated daily.  You can also find lists of Kindle e-books for $3.99 or less, and you can search for e-books by category.  

Have a Nook?  You can find great e-book bargains HERE.

Since then, I have come across these excellent resources I can recommend for finding e-books for free (or nearly free).  Click on the name to go to their website.  

Gospel e-books  (Kindle e-books only)
Book Bub (Kindle e-books only)
eReaderGirl (Kindle, Nook; PDF)
David C Cook Publishers - (Kindle, Nook, Google Play, iBook and more)

There are surely more out there, but these sites promote what is current in Spiritual Growth, Inspirational Fiction, and Marriage/Family books.  

Although I do not own a Nook, I did find that Barnes and Noble's The Nook Blog promotes free e-books on Fridays.  

Be sure to follow any available Twitter feeds of free e-book promoters (my first three recommendations are all on Twitter).  It is important to remember that most promoted e-books are only free for that specific day, so if you click on a link the following day, don't assume that the book is still free.  Look for a $0.00 price before clicking through to the check out.  

The great thing about Kindle e-books, even free e-books, is that once you buy, you own them for life.  You can also use them across any device that is associated with your account.  For instance, I have the iPad, but my hubby purchased a Kindle Fire for himself.  We use the same account, so any books I may have "purchased" for free through our account are accessible for his Kindle, and vice versa.  

If you don't have a smart phone, tablet or a Kindle/Nook, no worries!  There are apps for your computer too. Both Nook and Kindle have apps for your computer, and with Google Play, you can read on the Web.  

Some choices for my 2013 reading list will be free e-books that I downloaded in the last couple months.  While I still like to have that actual book in my hand, the digital option is catching on with me quickly!   Knowing that I can download a book and read it at my leisure without ever "unowning" it, plus still have the ability to highlight different quotes and passages, has become more appealing.

Especially with our tough economy, it can be hard to keep up with a reading habit!  I hope that these e-book hints will help you increase your reading for this year.

Did this article help you?  Please Pin this photo to Pinterest so others can benefit too!

Know of a website that offers free e-books?  Please comment and let us know where to find it!  Thanks!

Thursday, January 03, 2013

#musesofamom: How I Set Reading Goals

Thanks for visiting again today!   If you are new here, Welcome!  Please take a moment to subscribe to my blog, or click on the icon to follow me on Twitter.

Yesterday I posted nine different ways to get more out of a book.  Today I wanted to share part of my 2013 reading list.  Yes, just "part" of my list, because as the year moves forward, I like the flexibility of adding any newly released books to the stack or a treasure I may find while scouring the shelves at my local library (or Goodwill!)

Following the example of Crystal at the Money Saving Mom, I always make sure that I have a mixture of spiritual growth, business/leadership/productivity, fiction/biography and family/marriage related books on the list.  While it is important to learn, grow and stretch, it is also important to have some fun reading too.

Here's just the start of my list (not in any specific order) of what I'm planning to read this year.  If you want more information on the book, simply click on the title.

Spiritual Growth:
Wonderstruck by Margaret Feinberg
One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst
Let. It. Go. by Karen Ehman

Family / Marriage
Unschooling Rules by Clark Aldrich
Grown-up Girlfriends by Erin Smalley and Carrie Oliver
Becoming God's True Woman by Nancy Leigh Demoss

Love Does by Bob Goff
Are You Fit for Life? by Jack Graham
Resolved Primer: A Look Into the 13 Resolutions by Orrin Woodward

Fiction / Biography
Killing Lincoln by Bill O'Reilly

My goal is to read 51 books this year.  If you want to keep up with what I am currently reading, check out my reviews or what I plan to read, you can click on the Goodreads widget on the right hand column of this website. You can also click on the "Book Reviews" tap at the top of my blog for a list of posts related to my book reviews.

Is there a book that you already know you want to read this year?  Please post it in the comments here!

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

#musesofamom: Nine Ways to Get More From a Book

First of all - Happy New Year to you and thank you so much for visiting!  Please choose to "follow" my blog or subscribe to my Twitter feed.  2013 is going to be an eventful year here at the blog, and you won't want to miss anything!

The knowledge I am about to share today is not original; I will fully disclose that I "borrowed" this from a must-read leadership book: "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie. If you have not read this book, or it has been years since you have (perhaps in college when you "had" too), then I highly recommend that you add this to the top of your 2013 reading list.  In fact, it has been a couple years since I have I picked up my copy, so I will read it again too, just to show it's that important.

Here is my paraphrased and condensed version from Carnegie's Nine Ways given in the introduction of his book:

1.  Have a deep desire to learn something from which you are about to read.  Don't read to read; decide at the beginning that you are reading to learn.

2.  Read through each chapter twice. Right, I said, "two times." This really works!  The first time you tend to read at your faster pace; the second time you will undoubtedly find something you missed before. You may be tempted to move to the next chapter, but wait until you've read the current chapter twice, unless you are reading entirely for entertainment.

3.  Stop frequently to think about what you are reading.  Again, don't read just to read, but ask yourself how you can apply what you are reading.

4.  Keep a highlighter by you at all times so you can immediately mark those things that jump out or are important to remember, or make comments or notes in the margins.

5.  If you want to get a real, lasting benefit from a book, don't think that reading through the book once will work. Take time throughout the year to go back to your highlights or notes to refresh yourself so it will continually be applied.

6.  "Learning is an active process." says Carnegie.  We learn by doing, so if you want put into practice what you are learning, then do something about it right away.  Choose one principle you read and find a way to put it into practice that very day.

7.  While Carnegie suggests here to give a family member or colleague a dime (this was 1936!) or dollar  when caught violating a learned principle, I like this approach much better:  Find a reading buddy or accountability partner whom you trust.  This will be your "go-to" person who will promise to work with you and to encourage you as you put into practice what you've learned.

8.  Go back and check yourself on your progress.  This is where a journal or day timer (if you aren't a wordy person) comes in handy to chart your progress daily or weekly.  See where you would like to make improvements and what lessons you are learning.

9.  Keep track of successes! A gratitude journal, conversation over coffee with your accountability partner, or even tweeting or Facebook messaging your success to the author will help you celebrate (and the author will appreciate the encouragement too!).  Buy a new copy of the book and share it with another friend.  Not only will you be inspiring your friend, but you will also begin to grow a community who can work together towards learning new principles, scripture or lessons.

While Carnegie's list was written with his leadership theme in mind, I know that these principles will help with the majority of non-fiction and inspirational books we are reading today.

Nothing is better than reading.  We are losing so much by spending the majority of free time in front of electronics and forgetting the Classics and those books (past and present) written to help, teach and inspire.  Let's commit to reading more about successes instead of watching the depressing drama of people on TV.  Let's decide that we will read more about improving ourselves and helping others succeed instead of watching 24 hour news channel stories that can be so negative.  (I'm not saying that knowing what is going on in our country is not relevant; I am saying that we should not constantly dwell on it, but do something instead!)  Let's make our New Year's resolution to read more, and everything else we want to accomplish will more than likely come to pass.